Railing Systems Light the Way: The Aesthetics and Safety Benefits of Lighted Railing Systems

Lighted Railing Systems (LED Railing) Shewsbury (Burns) Bridge

The practical and aesthetic benefits for considering lighted railing systems

More and more you see the demand for growing safety measures involving better lighting inside and out. It’s more present for outdoor recreation walking surfaces such as pathways, trails, or bridges, and interior walking spaces like in theaters or museums. Architecturally, it brings a strong solution that fosters safety with lighting while also being aesthetically pleasing.

And while traditionally maintenance, energy costs, replacement/lifecycle costs may have been inhibiting in consideration of lighted railings, that’s all changing and railing systems today are lighting the way as an aesthetically pleasing safety solution. Thanks to the rapid advancement and popularity of LED lighting, innovation has converged to offer the best of all of these worlds, offering attractively-lit railing that enhances safety, with solid-state lighted railing solutions.

The Bright Future of Railing is Here

Historically, lighted railings required large, aluminum tubular sections which enclosed fluorescent lighting fixtures. These railings tended to be very large and cumbersome. As the only lighted rail option, these hulking assemblies were considered acceptable. However, once building codes and standards defined handrail graspability as being a diameter between 1-1/4-inch and 2-inch diameter, everything changed.

Fluorescent handrail fixtures could no longer meet the dual purposes of handrail and lighting. The industry’s response? Attach smaller handrails to the larger sections. This resulted in railing systems that were even bulkier and more unappealing. This all changed with the development of LEDs.

Advances in LED technology created luminaires of a size and output that could fit within the handrail graspability limitations but still perform. The smaller light sticks happened to fit neatly into extruded or roll-formed slotted, tube sections which were already commonly used in glass railing systems.

Safety dictates that railings are required on stairs for guidance. Additionally, guards are required to protect against accidental falls. Those same areas need to be illuminated.

New Demands Trigger LED Railing Innovation

Healthier lifestyle and safety application demands have also triggered need and desire for better lit walkways. For today’s commercial architect, leveraging illuminated exterior and interior handrail systems puts an exclamation mark on their commercial designs in a way that traditional solutions couldn’t. LED handrail lighting eliminates the need for ancillary lighting because LEDs can be placed exactly where they need to be to make areas safer for the public. LEDs also reflect brightly on walking surfaces without adding ambient light like other lights do (overhead, poles, etc.) which is especially important in museums, theaters, or other public places.

LEDs also support green building which is growing in popularity among architects. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is one of the most popular green building certification programs used worldwide.

 More Practical and Aesthetic Benefits

In addition to new demands, there are numerous other reasons to consider lighted railing systems:

  • Meets building code requirements for handrail and guardrail
  • Meets illumination requirements for stairs
  • Provides emergency lighting option for exit stairs
  • Accents architectural features
  • Earns Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) points
  • Brings dedicated lighting to pathways
  • Reduces the need for ancillary lighting from other sources (overhead fixtures, light poles, etc.)
  • Eliminates noise generated by light poles and wall packs
  • Gives the ability to customize railing designs with glass or cable systems
  • Yields energy cost savings by utilizing LED technology

A Resource to Help

A trusted supplier is your best resource in reviewing your lighted railing options. While your particular application is unique to you, it’s likely that your supplier has the experience and knowledge to provide you with the best solution.

Wagner is a U.S. manufacturer of railings for over 60 years and also manufactures LED luminaires specifically designed for railing applications. Wagner was the first company to introduce a component based LED railing solution and has developed products specifically for lighted railing.


  • I like how you talked about the fact that stainless steel handrails with lighting added will meet building codes for hand or guardrails and also for lighting stairs. My uncle is putting in a new workshop on a property of his and is deciding what sort of handrails to put on the stairs he has. Thank you for the information about how these railings also provide an emergency lighting option for exit stairs.

  • Thanks for pointing out how safety guards and railings need to be illuminated. I can really see how companies with night shift employees can benefit from this type of addition. If I owned a company, and we have the budget for it, I’ll definitely look into getting guardrail LED lights for my building. That will definitely spare me the trouble of dealing with medical fees that could have been otherwise prevented.

  • I do agree with you that lighted railing systems are quite practical. If they weren’t lit up, then I do think that a lot of people would run into them. There are actually some railings by my apartment that are pretty bare so I might look into contacting the owner to see if they can get that changed.

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